Houston Rockets: 15 greatest playoff moments of all-time

By Jerran Anderson
Houston Rockets. (Photo by NBA Photos/ NBAE/ Getty Images)
Houston Rockets. (Photo by NBA Photos/ NBAE/ Getty Images) /
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Ralph Sampson, Houston Rockets
Ralph Sampson, Houston Rockets. Photo by Brian Drake/NBAE via Getty Images /

7. Ralph Sampson game-winner in 1986 Western Conference Finals

Hakeem Olajuwon wasn’t the only big man to roam the paint and make noise for the Rockets. They also had another big man by the name of Ralph Sampson. The 7-foot-4 center won the 1983-84 NBA Rookie of the Year award, putting up 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game his first year in the league. By his third season, he was draining game-winners.

He played a pivotal role in their second run to the NBA Finals. In the 1986 Western Conference Finals, they faced off against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Los Angeles Lakers. They were a team highly favored to make the NBA Finals as the No. 1 seed out of the West, but the Rockets had other plans.

In a decisive Game 5 with the series in favor of Houston at 3-1, they needed just one victory on the road in Los Angeles to move on to the 1986 NBA Finals.

With one second left on the clock and Rodney McCray in-bounding, the game was all tied up at 112. McCray threw a lob towards the paint and Sampson caught it. Sampson threw up a no-look shot to the basket that rolled over the rim and went in.

The Rockets celebrated in front of a stunned Lakers crowd as the basket counted and it gave them the final victory needed to move on to the 1986 NBA Finals. The basket marked Sampson’s 29th point in the game, as he shot 10-for-15 (66.7 percent) from the field when the final buzzer sounded.